As Portland prepares to remove a temporary protected bike lane on Monday and biking advocates prepare to call for permanent improvements with a human-protected bike lane demonstration tonight, a separate discussion has been going on.
As part of last year’s voter-approved Fixing Our Streets program, the city has promised to reconstruct and repave Naito Boulevard between the Hawthorne Bridge and Interstate 405. But state law requires reconstructed roads to add bike facilities — and that stretch of Naito has never had bike lanes.
The result: The city has worked up a rough engineering concept that includes a bike path and protected two-way bike lanes between Salmon Street and Harrison Street, including on-street protected bike lanes beneath the Hawthorne Bridge onramp that would permanently repurpose one of Naito’s four auto traffic lanes for biking, at least at this crucial pinchpoint.
A new bikeway on this part of Naito would create a far more direct biking link between downtown Portland and the South Waterfront, sharply reducing the incentive for commuters and other faster-moving transportation bikers to use the riverside path in Waterfront Park or the walkway alongside the RiverPlace development, an area where biking-walking conflicts are technically forbidden but common and sometimes dangerous.
It’d also let people comfortably bike much closer to Portland State University, nearly connecting the city’s No. 1 biking destination to a continuous low-stress bikeway network through the central city … though only if the protected bike lanes remain on Naito between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges.
In other words, this concept makes much more sense if the “Better Naito” bikeway, or something like it, is made permanent.
In interviews Thursday, city officials stressed that they haven’t yet done the extensive outreach that would have to happen before advancing the concept. It’s certain that this concept, if circulated more widely, would draw the attention of the Portland Business Alliance, which has made a campaign of opposing the temporary lane conversion north of Salmon — which means that the plan probably wouldn’t happen unless the city felt other Portlanders or institutions were likely to strongly support it.
“At this point, we are in the early stage of design, with a lot of uncertainty about what is technically feasible and what elements might be worth including in the project,” Art Pearce, the city’s group manager for planning, policy and projects, wrote in an email. “Not every paving project allows us to recreate the traffic flow in an area, but in this case, we are able to analyze the potential to use one travel lane to provide safer bicycle and pedestrian access.”
Pearce said that in addition to the bikeway mandated by state law, the city is looking for ways to improve travel for all modes. Northbound autos sometimes back up on the way up Naito, interfering with Portland Streetcar service on Harrison, half a mile south of the Hawthorne Bridge. A new signal at the Hawthorne Bridge, also proposed as part of the city’s concept, would let cars move through faster and clear the way for streetcar passengers, too. (On the downside for people biking, it’d also create a new stoplight for people crossing the Hawthorne.)
“It’s a complicated part of town,” Pearce said. “We’re trying to do a hard thing and we’re trying to do it well.”
BikePortland was sent a copy of the city’s engineering sketches Wednesday by someone not affiliated with the city. The sketches show the extent of effort the city has so far invested in a concept that’s been quietly public for months. Here’s the public project description from the Fixing Our Streets website:
This project is examining the feasibility to include a 2-way separated bike path between SW Harrison and SW Clay Street on the east side. Additionally, the project is examining the feasibility of incorporating an on-street, 2-way bike facility between SW Clay and SW Jefferson; a full pedestrian signal at SW Jefferson with connections to the Park and a 2-way on-street bike lane connection north of Jefferson. All of these improvements will increase safety and efficiency while decreasing conflicts between drivers, buses, and people on bikes and on foot.
“Staff determined early on that pedestrian crossings on this section of Naito (between Jefferson and Harrison) were inadequate and bike facilities were non-existent,” Pearce said. “This section of Naito has long been identified as a multimodal priority: it’s a city walkway and a major city bikeway.”
Pearce suggested that given the need for some sort of improvements, it makes sense to “come up with the smartest, best design for this busy corridor. Our current design features a raised, separated two-way cycle track and sidewalk along the east side of Naito between Harrison and Jefferson. It shortens crossing distances for pedestrians, upgrades signals, and adds a new crossing at SW Jefferson serving the new courthouse and the Waterfront bowl.”
“It’s too early to say what the project will look like,” Pearce concluded. “We’re hoping to build it in 2018.”
— Michael Andersen: (503) 333-7824, @andersem on Twitter and email@example.com
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Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
I think any changes to bike lanes on Naito should also make it easier for bikers going north on Naito to then go East over the bridge.
Currently, the best option is to get across Naito, bike through the waterfront under the bridge, and then loop around to the ramp on the Northeast side of the bridge. That adds more conflict with cars and pedestrians.
In short, I miss the old Naito offramp….
I applaud the city for looking for ways to make bike lanes on Naito Permanent. Can’t quite tell if this is the best approach from these drawings, but I hope it goes forward and continues to improve with community input. I dread the PBA rising up from their primordial swamp and trying to quash the additions of bike lanes to Naito so they can live out their fantasies of James Dean cruising the boulevards in his convertable on the way to work or Fonzi heading to the drive-in in his flat-head coupe.
I know. They might do something inane like propose one two way street sitting right beside another two-way street.
This will be huge! I have ridden this route by crossing the hawthorne bridge offramp traffic south of the ramp, but I always thought it would need to go under the ramp to really take off. Exciting!
This project is very badly needed for people who bike through the south side of downtown. I don’t think people going to the South Waterfront from downtown will use it, since it will probably be faster and more direct to continue using Harbor Way and the path that goes under the viaduct. It will, however, be a major improvement for anyone going between Lair Hill/Barbur/Terwilliger and Waterfront Park/Rose Quarter.
My main concern in looking at the drawings is that this design will suffer from some of the same issues that have appeared on recent bike infrastructure projects like SW Moody/Tilikum Bridge, such as:
-inadequate space for bikes to queue at intersections
-ambiguous pedestrian/bike mixing zones at intersections
-90 degree turns that result in an indirect, slower route for bikes
Thanks, Geoff. You may be right about South Waterfront traffic – I was thinking that this lets people avoid the loopdeloop beneath the Hawthorne and then either cut down to Harbor Way further south, or take Harrison (as I think some already do to avoid the weird signals beneath the viaduct). In any case, you’re definitely right about the Lair Hill/Barbur/Terwilliger route.
It will also be really useful as a route from PSU and the south end of downtown to the waterfront. It will be possible to cycle down Lincoln (or, when our protected bike lane network is built out, Harrison or Columbia) and turn left onto Naito.
Yes! As someone that links to Naito to/from from Lincoln every single day, that stretch (from Lincoln to the Waterfont Park on the east side of Naito) is the only sidewalk i regularly ride in the City. I’d use any bike lane, but the auto lane currently are just too back up in peak hours to mange on a bike. I actually just saw Art yesterday riding the same Naito sidewalk/shared east-side path yesterday so he must understand my pain…
Wonder if the fear of PBA backlash explains why my questions about redesigning the Clay/Naito inresection went unanswered. Been a terrible intersection for people on bikes with right turn on red. I would imagine design would permanently eliminate RTOR from Clay to Naito.
‘Sketched plans’ or ‘sketchy plans’?
It’s only complicated because we let cars use the outer lanes of the Hawthorne bridge, including this ramp which crosses the bikeway and sidewalk with poor visibility and lots of conflict. Bus lane, close the ramp — simple.
It will be nice to have something besides that silly bit of sidewalk from Harrison.
Regardless of the details of this project, I say let’s take on the PBA! Running away from a bully won’t make the bully go away. Sometimes you have to punch them in the nose.
This looks fantastic. I really hope this gets done.
We need infrastructure coming off Barbur at the Naito split all the way to the Hawthorne Bridge onramp along with signage off Barbur to the Gibbs Street Bridge. For the “interested, but concerned’ the whole stretch of Naito south of Hawthorne is a deal breaker. Presumably it will all get “fixed” with Southwest Corridor light rail.
I hear that Trimet is working on a $1.7 billion bond measure that would go to voters next year, which would include SW light rail. Even if that passes, it will be years before any changes are made. It would be relatively painless to take the existing outer lane on the northbound side of Naito and convert it to a cycle track between the Ross Island onramp and the start of the project proposed above. The bikeway could then cross to the Frontage Rd. on the west side before continuing up to Barbur. Relatively cheap jersey barriers could be used to create a true separated bikeway, for very little money. This (with a permanent better Naito) would create a continuous protected bikeway on the waterfront from Barbur to the Steel Bridge.
That used to be my usual commute until the Tillicum Bridge came on line, and aside from the Vermont/Newbury bridges on Barbur, it was one of my least favorite in-bound parts of the commute. Merging from the bike lane on Barbur into the right lane of high speed auto traffic getting on the Sellwood, then over to the weird shoulder/turn lane, then crossing over another lane of busy traffic (with no signage) over to the bike lane of Naito, that then disappears a block later, into a MUP that then disappears a block later, finally merging into busy auto traffic that doesn’t understand “Share The Road” to get over to the Hawthorne bridge. Simple!
I take the Tillicum route now, despite being a bit more out of the way for my endpoint because of that horrible stretch from Barbur/Naito to the Hawthorne. The Southwest Corridor project will hopefully eliminate many of these issues ***IN 25 YEARS*** just after I retire.
I see here a clear agenda by PBOT to move all bicyclists from the SW waterfront and onto Natio in the medium term. Better Naito is just a test run. How would people feel about gaining permanent protected bikelanes on Naito in exchange for no access to SW Waterfront?
I would love it. Riding on the waterfront is terrible during daylight hours for 4-5 months of the year, now.
What about the dangerous Barbur / Naito freeway-style split ?
I always get excited about new bike infrastructure plans at this early stage but then I’m left disappointed by the final execution. Like with the 20’s bike way…On one hand, it’s better than nothing but on the other it’s a missed opportunity for something that could have (and should have) been amazing. Time will tell with Better Naito.
i got an email from PBOT stating that there was now funding awarded to cover the next 5 “seasons” for a Naito lane of wands. there was nothing in there about permanence or extending it to Harrison. Disinformation?
You’re getting two separate projects mixed up.
1. “Better Naito” is a 5-year seasonal (summer only) two-way bikeway and walkway using “wands” from Main to Davis. It has funding for those five years, but does not have funding for a permanent version.
2. PBOT has funding from the local gas tax to repave Naito from Harrison to Jefferson, and as this article describes they are exploring the potential for a permanent two-way bikeway to be part of the project.
Ah yes. “Disinformation”. That nefarious PBOT, always doing the things we don’t want and then hiding it with a well-constructed disinformation campaign. Way to sniff it out!
I went to take one last ride along “Better Naito” yesterday afternoon…but PBoT had already removed all the wands and put up a “Better Naito Closed” sign…I guess their crews moved up Monday’s closure date…so it now is NOT a Better Naito! [for now].